Meyers Patrick Leonard (born February 27, 1992) is an American professional basketball player for the Portland Trail Blazers of the National Basketball Association (NBA). He played college basketball for the University of Illinois before being selected by the Trail Blazers with the 11th overall pick in the 2012 NBA draft.
Leonard, born in Woodbridge, Virginia, grew up in Robinson, Illinois, a small town in southeastern Illinois. When he was six years old, his father James, a golf pro, was killed in a freak bicycle accident. His mother Tracie, once an athlete who would run upwards of 10 miles a day, had been largely housebound since her husband's death, victimized by an old horseback injury and subsequent disc surgery that left her with crippling pain.
When he was in second grade, the young Leonard gained a surrogate family. Brian Siler, an insurance agent in Robinson who had a son of the same age, was aware of Leonard's family situation, and eventually became a father figure. Leonard regularly attended the Silers' church and went on family vacations. According to ESPN.com writer Dana O'Neil,
"Looking to shoehorn the relationship into a convenient box, outsiders have called this Meyers' version of The Blind Side, but the comparison is inaccurate. The book and subsequent movie tell the story of Michael Oher, a boy who was homeless and didn't have much of a family life. Meyers Leonard has a family. It has not abandoned him. On the contrary, Tracie loves her son, loves him so much that she was willing to accept help."
High school career
Leonard entered high school as a guard, but was converted to center after a six-inch (15 cm) growth spurt between his freshman and sophomore years. O'Neil called him "something of a basketball anomaly", adding that Leonard "gained all that height without losing his coordination or his fast-twitch muscles."
In high school, Leonard was named a member of the 2010 Illinois All-State Team as selected by the Associated Press, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, News-Gazette, and the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association. Leonard led Robinson High School to the IHSA class 2A state championship before choosing to play collegiate basketball at the University of Illinois.
|Name||Home town||High school / college||Height||Weight||Commit date|
|Robinson, IL||Robinson High School||7 ft 0 in (2.13 m)||240 lb (110 kg)||Jul 29, 2008|
|Scout: Rivals: 247Sports: N/A ESPN grade: 95|
|Overall recruiting rankings: Scout: 6 (C) Rivals: 6 (C) ESPN: 4 (C)|
As a sophomore in 2011–12, Leonard averaged 13.6 points and 8.2 rebounds per game. Leonard was named Big 10 Co-Player of the Week on December 5, 2011 after averaging 16.5 points and 6.0 rebounds per game in two Illinois victories. Leonard was also named Big 10 Player of the Week on December 26, 2011 after averaging 16.5 points and 14.5 rebounds per game in two games. Following the season, Leonard was named Honorable Mention All Big-10.
Portland Trail Blazers (2012–present)
Leonard was drafted with the 11th overall pick by the Portland Trail Blazers in the 2012 NBA draft. On July 13, he signed his rookie scale contract with the Trail Blazers. On October 31, 2012, Leonard made his NBA debut, logging 23 minutes and scoring four points against the Los Angeles Lakers. He made his first career start on November 21, 2012 against the Phoenix Suns, where he finished with 12 points and 5 rebounds. On March 30, 2013, he had a season-best game with 22 points and 10 rebounds in a loss to the Golden State Warriors.
Leonard's numbers dipped from his rookie to sophomore season, falling behind fellow second-year big man Joel Freeland as the primary backup to starter Robin Lopez. He saw action in 29 fewer games in 2013–14, with his minutes and points per game cut in half, as the Blazers transformed from a lottery team to a playoff contender. On January 2, 2014, he had a season-best game with 8 points and 10 rebounds in a 134–104 win over the Charlotte Bobcats.
In 2014–15, Leonard played only 13 total minutes in Portland's first 9 games as he was stuck in the big man rotation behind Robin Lopez, Joel Freeland and Chris Kaman. On November 15, 2014, with LaMarcus Aldridge scratched with an upper respiratory illness against the Brooklyn Nets, Leonard picked up the start at power forward, playing 29 minutes. With his first major minutes at the power forward spot, he performed admirably, tallying 12 rebounds and hitting a three-pointer. He went on to pick up DNPs in 11 of the next 12 games. But when Lopez broke his hand going up for a rebound against the San Antonio Spurs on December 15, Leonard got another chance to show that he deserved time on the court. His improvement was incremental, but noticeable, over the following seven weeks. His play while Lopez was out earned him time to prove himself. He only saw six DNPs after the turn of the New Year, and grew in confidence despite limited minutes. At the season's end, Leonard had produced a remarkable Steve Nash-like 50/40/90 season, shooting 51% from the field, 42% from three-point range, and 93% from the free throw line. In the second last game of the regular season on April 13, he scored a career-high 24 points in a loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder. He went on to record a playoff-best game with 13 points and 13 rebounds in a win over the Memphis Grizzlies in Game 4 of Portland's first-round series. The Trail Blazers went on to lose the series 4–1.
On December 1, 2015, Leonard scored a season-high 23 points in a loss to the Dallas Mavericks. On March 24, 2016, he was ruled out for the rest of the season after injuring his left shoulder and requiring surgery.
On July 10, 2016, Leonard re-signed with the Trail Blazers on a four-year, $41 million contract.
NBA career statistics
|GP||Games played||GS||Games started||MPG||Minutes per game|
|FG%||Field goal percentage||3P%||3-point field goal percentage||FT%||Free throw percentage|
|RPG||Rebounds per game||APG||Assists per game||SPG||Steals per game|
|BPG||Blocks per game||PPG||Points per game||Bold||Career high|
Leonard's older brother, Bailey, is a U.S. Marine who has served in Afghanistan.